Chelmsford TUC

TUC & Trade Unions

The Branch Meeting

This page contains information on:

  • Preparing the Meeting
  • Some Rules of Debate
  • Hints for you at the Branch Meeting and some Technical Terms

Preparing the meeting

Throughout this page we refer to the title of Chairman; please bear with us, no offence is intended to those who prefer to use Chair or Chairperson.

  • Don’t forget to book the room.
  • Although it is helpful to have an informal and relaxed atmosphere at the meeting, a formal agenda is essential. This should be agreed between the Secretary and Chairman; it should be relevant and as short as possible. Try to balance the agenda to ensure that all the items will be discussed but not necessarily with all the major topics as the earliest items of business. Always try to include items that are of interest and issues that members can talk about and/or get involved in.
  • Include essential business items.
  • Where appropriate, set time limits for standard items of business. Experience will tend to determine on which items this is needed.
  • Provide an opportunity for members to report back on relevant business.
  • Circulate the agenda indicating the time and venue of the meeting according to local practice, and in sufficient time to assist good attendance. If appropriate, place the same information on notice boards.

Some rules of debate

It should be noted that some organisations interpret a few of these rules slightly differently according to their customs and traditions but we feel that they are a good guide for most bodies.

A motion: This is moved and seconded before any discussion takes place. Only one speech is allowed by anyone on the motion, except that the mover of the motion has the right to reply to the debate before the vote is taken. This reply must not introduce new matter and should be confined to responding to the points raised.

Amendment: Should only be allowed when it actually deals with the subject of the motion e.g. substituting, adding or deleting words in the original motion. It, too, must be moved and seconded before any discussion takes place. After the motion has been moved and seconded, all further discussion on the motion will be suspended until the amendment has been dealt with. If the amendment is accepted, the motion and the amendment become the substantive motion and is open to further amendment, before being finally voted on for adoption or rejection.

Next business: This means that the meeting will immediately move to the next business. It is dealt with as an amendment and must be moved, seconded and debated. If it is carried, the meeting moves on to the next item of business on the agenda. If lost, business is continued where the interrupted debate left off.

That the question be put: This is designed to resolve the debate without any further discussion. It takes precedence over all other business even if it interrupts a speaker. If seconded, it must be voted on without any further discussion. If carried, the mover of the original motion may reply to the debate before the vote. If “that the question be put” is moved during debate on an amendment and carried, it only refers to the amendment and does not affect the original motion, nor prevent any further amendments being moved.

Previous question: This is intended to postpone the subject to another time. It should be treated as an amendment and if carried then the meeting will move to the next item on the agenda. If lost, the motion must be voted on immediately, without any further debate. The Chair need not accept the “Previous Question” if she/he considers that the subject requires further debate. The “Previous Question” cannot be proposed when an amendment is being discussed.

That the chairman leave the chair: This is the normal way to challenge a ruling made by the Chairman. Normally, Standing Orders will stipulate that a 2/3rd majority is required but procedures vary.

Adjournment of the meeting: This takes precedence over all other business. No debate is permitted unless it relates to the time, place of the next meeting.

To report progress: This proposal is designed to adjourn the meeting indefinitely.

Point of order: A point of order is an objection to the speech being made on the basis that he/she is not speaking to the subject under discussion, that the rules of debate are not being operated, offensive language is being used, or that the Standing Orders are not being complied with,

Question: This challenges a speaker’s relevancy or seeks information.

At the meeting

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Practice makes Perfect

Chairing a branch meeting is not always easy. However, experience is a wonderful thing, so never hesitate to take up the challenge if you have the opportunity. Study the agenda, read all the relevant material and prepare your approach to the meeting with care.

  • If you are a Chairman, Secretary or Treasurer you have a special responsibility to be early.
  • As a member, never be late.
  • Start the meeting on time and finish in good time to allow members to socialise.
  • Welcome and introduce new members.
  • Encourage members to express their views.
  • Make sure that where decisions are taken everyone present understands them.
  • Where action is agreed, make sure that everyone is quite clear about who is doing what.
  • Perhaps the most important of all, help to make the meeting enjoyable.
  • Everyone should study Lord Citrine’s abc of chairmanship and Wal Hannington’s Mr. Chairman.
  • As the Secretary responsible for much of the administration, consider if the branch needs a Minute Secretary or a Membership Secretary.
  • Take the minutes of the meeting and distribute as agreed by the members.
  • Keep an attendance register.
  • If appropriate, prepare dates for meetings well in advance.
  • In conjunction with the Chair, ensure that all decisions are carried out.
  • The Treasurer will handle all the branch finances according to branch rules including keeping an account of all transactions and retaining receipts. Reports should be provided of all accounts on a regular basis. The accounts will be audited as agreed by the appropriate rules of the organisation.

Some Technical Terms

A rider: A rider is the same as an addendum (below) but it calls for action to implement the motion.

Addendum: An amendment that will add words at the end of the motion.

Ad hoc committee: A special committee established for a special purpose.

Adjournment: This can be used as a motion to allow members a period of time to reflect further on the issues of debate, or to postpone the meeting.

Agenda: This is a list of all the items of business for the meeting.

Aggregate meeting: A full meeting of all the members.

Amended motion: This is the original motion after being amended.

Amendment: A proposal to change a motion.

Any other business: Items not included on the agenda and raised at the end of the listed items.

Casting vote: A deciding vote that may be used by the Chairman when the votes indicated are equal. The use of this vote will be subject to the Standing Orders of the meeting.

Composite: A motion made of more than one motion.

Co-opted member: A person appointed to a committee for reason of their special knowledge.

Direct negative: An amendment which offers no alternative position and seeks to negate the motion. This will be ruled out of order by the Chair.

Ex officio: By right of position or office.

In camera: Held in private.

Main question: The principal issue being discussed.

Mandate: A strict instruction to carry out the wishes of the meeting.

Minutes: A brief but accurate record of the meeting.

Motion: A proposal for the meeting to debate.

Mover: The person who proposes the main motion.

Nem. Con: Agreed with no one speaking in opposition - “nemine contradicente”.

Original motion: The first motion to be debated on a particular topic.

Point of information: A request for information but must not be raised when someone is speaking.

Point of order: This can be raised at any time but it must be relevant to the conduct or procedure of the meeting such as an infringement of the rules of debate, bad language, voting procedure, speaker has introduced irrelevancies.

Previous question: Motion to close a debate without a vote. However, if this is not carried then the Chairman will take the vote on the original motion without any further debate.

Question be put: A motion to stop discussion and to vote on the motion or amendment being debated.

Quorum: A previously agreed number present to make the meeting valid.

Reference back: An amendment that, if carried, will send a report back for further consideration.

Rescind: To repeal.

Resolution: This is a motion that has been agreed at the meeting.

Rider: Similar to an addendum but is usually in the form of a suggestion as to how the terms of the motion should be carried out.

Right of reply: This permits the mover of the original motion to make the final response to the debate.

Rostrum: The special platform from where the speeches are made.

Scrutineer: A person elected/nominated to count votes by ballot.

Seconder: A person who supports the main motion. Without a seconder the motion is not debated.

Standing orders: The rules by which branch/conference business will be conducted.

Sub-committee: A special committee with specific duties that reports to the main committee.

Substantive motion: When an amendment is carried, the motion is now the substantive motion. Other amendments can now be proposed.

Teller: A person elected/nominated to count votes other than by ballot.

The question be put: This is used to stop the discussion and the vote taken on the motion or amendment.


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